Ruth was born on Aug. 12, 1935, in rural Calloway County, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles Garvice (Lorine Wyatt) Douglas. She lived as a child in Graves County and grew up in Lone Oak and Paducah. She graduated from Lone Oak High School in 1952 and from Murray State University in 1956 with a B.A. in elementary education. In 1954 she married Bill Clark Thomas, who was then assistant to the pastor of First Baptist Church, Murray. Later she served as pastor’s wife at Bird’s Creek Baptist Church, Whitlock, Tenn., and Woodburn Baptist Church, Woodburn.
In June 1963 Ruth and her husband were appointed as missionaries of the International Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. During the next 34 years she served in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, West Germany, Thailand and France. As preparation for her service she studied Mandarin Chinese, Thai, and French. She served as professor of church music at the Malaysia-Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang as well as the Thailand Baptist Theological Seminary in Bangkok, teaching piano and leading both vocal and hand-bell choirs. As a pastor’s wife in Munich, Germany and later in Paris, France, she continued to lead hand-bell choirs, and often played piano for the worship services. She also acted as hostess both in the church and in her home.
While in Europe, she served a term as President of the Woman’s Missionary Union of the European Baptist Convention, visiting women’s groups in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere, and representing the EBC in meetings in the United States.
In 1995, Ruth returned to the United States, where she and her husband built a home in his native Trigg County. During their retirement she served with her husband in interim pastorates at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Christian County; Henderson Memorial Baptist Church in Hopkinsville; and Wallonia Baptist Church in Wallonia, as well as returning for short trips to her previous fields of service in Europe and Southeast Asia.
Ruth was preceded in death by her parents and by a son, Douglas Clark Thomas, who died in Singapore in 1965. She is survived by her husband, Bill Clark Thomas; four children, Dorothy Thomas McElrath of Altadena, Calif., Charles Thomas of Glenville, Cecilia Thomas Wallace of Paducah and Deborah Thomas Cooke of Arlington, Texas; one brother, Charles W. Douglas; one sister, Carolyn Douglas Larkin; fifteen grandchildren and five nieces and nephews.
The family request that memorial contributions in Ruth’s memory be made to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, c/o Cadiz Baptist Church, P.O. Box 606, Cadiz, KY 42211.